Staying sane on the road, geeking out on guitars and guilty pleasure music with Julia Jacklin and Julien Baker

Julia Jacklin and Julien Baker collectively share an above average number of Js, but that’s not the only thing they have in common. For starters they’re both incredible folk soloists and they’re both touring their debut albums right now, Don’t Let The Kids Win and Sprained Ankle respectively.

They’re also playing Fairgrounds Festival 2016 together in just over a week. Before they cross paths in the idyllic Berry, NSW, we thought we’d get the ball rolling on their budding acquaintance.

julia jacklin and julien baker
Illustration by the awesome Scott Littlewood

If you like Julia Jacklin, you’ll love Julien Baker. Ahead of their respective performances at Fairgrounds Festival, we let the twin folk goddesses learn a little more about each other.

Julia Jacklin interviews Julien Baker


JULIA: I play a Telecaster, you play a Telecaster. Why’d you pick a Telecaster?

JULIEN: When I was first learning guitar, I played several different models, all of which reflected whatever musical phase I was going through at that time. Each was clearly purposed for a certain stylistic choice (my Gibson SG and flat top semi hollow body represent really specific sound-goals to me, if you will). I started playing a Tele because I saw so many of my favourite bands using them, I’ve always been a fan of Fender products and they are the model I believe has the most versatility. So many guitars are limited to a narrower capabilities because they achieve one specific sound very well, and that’s what people desire in that model, a classic Les Paul or an ES-335 for example. but I think there’s a lot of variance in the timbre a Tele can produce, and that makes it really useful for creating dynamic sound because it gives you a wider tonal palette to use.

JULIA: How did you feel after releasing your first record? After all the build-up are you thinking about the next one?

JULIEN: When I released Sprained Ankle, I thought it would be a side project to the band I was performing and touring with at that time, Forrister, I never imagined that it would be received in this way, and so my relationship to the songs has undergone a lot of change and so has my approach to performing and writing, since I went from predominantly writing collaboratively to writing individually. I think now with more resources and direction the next record will be similar sonically, but I will have the chance to consider and flesh out ideas, as well as create space to start writing with more vision for collaboration and development.

JULIA: If you were forced to pick your favourite song of all time what would you go with and why?

JULIEN: Jungleland by Bruce Springsteen because it has all the ingredients necessary for a perfect song. It is one of the most poetic songs I have ever heard, the integrity of the lyrics is something that can stand on its own as one of my favourite outright poems of all time, and then the musical arrangement Springsteen uses to craft the narrative arc makes it that much better. It’s got everything, an emotional string arrangement, a walking bass line, a saxophone solo, a piano ballad part, a triumphant guitar refrain, what more could one want out of a piece of music?

JULIA: What band or artist were you thrashing when you were 15?

JULIEN: When I was 15, I was probably deep in my post-hardcore driven angst and spinning Underoath the most, between the ages of 14 and 16 I saw that band five times and let me tell you – there was some serious thrashing going on.

JULIA: How do you find going home after a long stint away touring? What’s the first thing you do?

JULIEN: I always think the first few days feel strange, there’s an adjustment period even when I go back to Memphis, where I grew up, during which I have to settle in to the fact that I won’t be leaving this town and off to another in the morning, so it takes a bit of decompression to fully relax. One way that I do that is go and get a coffee at my favourite spot in my neighbourhood, usually with some of my local friends, and walk around sticking my head into regular haunts to check in on the folks I haven’t seen in awhile, I think seeing those familiar faces and touching base helps me to get re-grounded after being absent for so long.

JULIEN: What is the last book you read, record you heard or movie you saw that took you by surprise or affected you significantly?

JULIA: I watched The Pianist on the plane on the way to the UK recently. I hadn’t seen it before. I had to stop it multiple times so I wouldn’t cause a scene with my sobbing. Where your face is just aching from trying to stay composed in public. It just killed me and I felt like I had a dark cloud hanging over my head for a few days after. Just thinking about how horrible humans can be to each other.


Julien Baker interviews Julia Jacklin


JULIEN: What’s one thing you have to do every day for your sanity?

JULIA: I’m on tour at the moment and have been for a while now. I find that I really need some time in the morning to myself. It can be a struggle to get up early but I find it helps me for the rest of the day. I write in my diary during that time and try and reflect on how cool this all is before the madness of the day begins and I have no time to think.

JULIEN: What’s one song that you can’t help but rock out to a little too hard?

JULIA: This isn’t rock at all but I’ve had one album on my phone for the whole first two months of touring, Art Angels by Grimes. I couldn’t remember my Spotify password and my Beyoncé CD didn’t download onto my phone properly and I failed to figure it out before I left. I have seriously listened to that album so many times it’s becoming a bit ridiculous. But I just love putting it on and moving my arms wildly in the tour van. I think it’s become the one constant I have on tour, it’s like my comfort zone. Listening to Grimes’ Kill V. Maim and pumping my fists.

JULIEN: As a musician, do you have a preference for the writing and creating process as opposed to touring and performing live– if so, which?

JULIA: Well yesterday I would have said touring and performing live. Today I’m gonna go with writing and creating! I think it changes every day for me. I’m kind of craving some time off at the moment to write. But that might just be because I’m tired and it’s raining outside and I don’t have an umbrella and I need to be at soundcheck soon.

JULIEN: Where is your favourite place you have visited this year?

JULIA: We played a festival called into the Great Wide Open in Vlieland, Holland. It was just so beautiful. We got a ferry over there and got picked up and driven around and everyone was so nice. The stage was in the middle of the woods, surrounded by trees. Just ace.

Fairgrounds tickets are on sale now, and you can grab yours here.